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Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Supervalue

December 7, 2010

EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION PLAINTIFF,
v.
SUPERVALUE, INC. AND , JEWEL-OSCO, AN OPERATING UNIT OF SUPERVALUE, INC. DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Michael T. Mason

District Judge Ronald A. Guzman

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Michael T. Mason, United States Magistrate Judge.

Currently pending before this Court are three motions to compel, each of which has been fully briefed. For the reasons set forth below, defendants' motion to compel properly verified responses to their first set of interrogatories [103] is granted in part and denied in part; plaintiff's motion to compel a portion of defendants' human resources database [113] is denied; and plaintiff's motion to compel regarding its Rule 34 request for entry upon land and inspection [126] is granted in part and denied in part.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff EEOC ("plaintiff" or "EEOC") has sued defendants Supervalu and Jewel-Osco ("defendants") for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). According to the EEOC's complaint, the EEOC alleges that defendants have violated the ADA by (1) prohibiting disabled employees who were on defendants' one-year paid disability leave, or eligible for it, from returning to work unless they could return without any accommodation to full service and had no physical or mental restrictions, and terminating such employees at the end of the one-year leave period; and (2) prohibiting disabled employees who were not injured on the job from participating in defendant's 90-day light duty program. (Compl. at 1[1].) The EEOC contends defendants have been so violating the ADA since November 1, 2003. (Id. at 1 & ¶¶ 8, 9, 13, & 14.) The EEOC filed its complaint against defendants on September 11, 2009.

Discovery in this matter has proceeded contentiously. The parties have expended considerable resources filing and/or briefing nine discovery-related motions to date. This Court has previously resolved four of those motions. (See Mots. [31, 54, 56, 68] resolved by Court Rulings [36, 45, 46, 65; 81; 66; 81].) Additionally, this Court's orders directing the parties to engage in proper Rule 37.2 conferences resulted in the parties resolving, without further Court involvement, two additional motions [95, 83] and a portion of a third [103]. (See Mots. [95, 83, 103], resolved in whole or in part after additional Court-ordered Rule 37.2 conferences [102; 91; 109].) As noted above, three discovery motions remain pending before this Court: (1) defendants' motion to compel properly verified responses to their first set of interrogatories [103]; (2) plaintiff's motion to compel a portion of defendants' human resources database; and (3) plaintiff's motion to compel regarding its Rule 34 request for entry upon land and inspection [126].

All discovery in this matter, fact and expert, is scheduled to close December 13, 2010 [81]. On November 23, 2010, the parties filed a joint motion for extension of time to complete discovery [121]. In that motion, the parties stated that on November 23, 2010, they agreed to a majority of the material terms to resolve this matter, including monetary relief, and were working to prepare an agreement memorializing those terms.

The parties requested a 30-day extension of discovery to permit them sufficient time to prepare and finalize their agreement, and to avoid expending additional resources on litigating this matter. They also requested that rulings on the two then-pending motions to compel (regarding interrogatory verifications [103] and defendants' human resources database [113]) be deferred until after the next status hearing before the District Court, scheduled for January 5, 2011.

On November 30, 2010, the District Court denied the parties' joint motion for extension of time to complete discovery [125]. Later that same day, at a status before this Court, the parties reported that their settlement discussions were ongoing. This Court set a status hearing for December 3, 2010, and stated that we would not rule upon the then-pending motions to compel (regarding interrogatory verifications [103] and defendants' human resources database [113]) in the interim.

On December 1, 2010, EEOC filed the third currently-pending motion to compel, regarding its Rule 34 request for entry upon land and inspection [126]. At the December 3, 2010 status hearing, the parties reported their settlement discussions were ongoing. As a result, this Court ordered defendants to file their response to plaintiff's motion to compel a portion of defendants' human resources database [113], as well as plaintiff's motion to compel regarding its Rule 34 request for entry upon land and inspection [126], by noon on December 6, 2010 [129]. (This Court had previously ordered defendants to respond to the former motion by November 24, 2010 [116], but defendants did not do so, presumably because of their then-pending joint motion for extension of time.) We also set a status for December 8, 2010, and directed plaintiff's counsel to notify our Chambers on December 6, 2010 in the event the parties reached an agreement to resolve this matter.

Having not heard from plaintiff's counsel that the parties have finally resolved this matter, this Court resolves the pending motions as follows.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure contemplate liberal discovery, and "relevancy" under Rule 26 is extremely broad. That Rule provides that parties "may obtain discovery regarding any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense .... Relevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). However, while the scope of permissible discovery remains broad, it is not unlimited. A party seeking discovery must demonstrate that the information sought is "relevant to any party's claim or defense." Id. (emphasis supplied).

Rule 26(b)(2)(C)(iii) allows a court to limit discovery that otherwise would be permissible under Rule 26(b)(1) on a showing that the burden or expense associated with producing the information outweighs the likely benefit to the requesting party in obtaining the discovery. "If a party is to resist discovery as unduly burdensome, it must adequately demonstrate the nature and extent of the claimed burden by making a specific showing as to how disclosure of the requested documents and information would be particularly burdensome." Perry v. City of Gary, Ind., No. 08-280, 2009 WL 2253157, at *4 (N.D. Ind. July 27, 2009) (quotations and citation omitted); see also Schaap v. Executive Indus. Inc., 130 F.R.D. 384, 387 (N.D. Ill.1990) ("The mere fact that [a party] will be required to expend a considerable amount of time, effort, or expense in answering the interrogatories is not a sufficient reason to preclude discovery."). When determining whether to limit the extent of discovery based on a party's argument that the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit, a court must consider "the needs of the case, the amount in controversy, the parties' resources, the importance of the issues at stake in the action, and the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2)(C)

III. ANALYSIS

A. Defendants' Motion to Compel Properly Verified Responses to their First Set of ...


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